The council has been searching for ways to best utilize the 6.2 acres and portable buildings at the Moura property, which were occupied by the Delta Family YMCA until it closed last year. After seeking proposals from community organizations interested in leasing portions of the property, EDYSL has been the only organization to suggest a compatible use for the community buildings, but its long-term plans for the property caused some debate at last Tuesday’s meeting.
EDYSL Director of Fields Zak Harris appeared before the council to continue a discussion about leasing at least one of the rooms on the property and installing a large field to be used by the organization for soccer practice and competition. When asked how long EDYSL would like to be located at the Moura property, Harris informed the council that ideally the organization would like to buy the property from the city.
“We’d like to ’doze all of it,” Harris said. “By then (in 10 years or so), we’d have enough money to buy the whole thing from you. Grand scheme: we’d really like to see a huge soccer-centric facility. We see ourselves using all of it.”
The revelation came as a surprise to Councilmember Pat Anderson, who has long considered the Moura property the perfect home for the city’s future community center. While she liked the idea of giving more children the opportunity to play sports in Oakley, she was hesitant to give in to Harris’ vision.
“I come at this torn in so many directions,” Anderson said. “An organization stood there and told us the same thing you’re saying. They said we’ll be there, we’ll do fundraisers, we’ll do whatever. I don’t want to distrust you. I distrust the system. I bring that baggage as I look at this.
“You’re right: it’s a fabulous location. It’s in the center of our community. It’s land that was given to this community. It’s land that has been planned on from the very beginning to be an area where there would be community activities and we could all join in those. I feel like we’re limiting that in some ways when we’re taking your vision on.”
Mayor Jim Frazier also expressed concerns about the risks in taking part in such a huge endeavor, and ultimately declined to support EDYSL in its plans to build a soccer complex on O’Hara Avenue. He did, however, encourage Harris to talk with City Manager Bryan Montgomery about finding a different location within the city that might be suitable for such a large-scale effort.
For now, Harris and EDYSL would like to use one of the Moura buildings as office space and storage. Harris said EDYLS would also use the 1,422-square-foot room for referee training plus agility and speed training for soccer players during rainy months. He also envisions a full-scale competitive soccer field that could be used to host semi-pro soccer matches.
The vision could bring visitors galore to Oakley, prompting questions about parking and adequate restroom facilities. Councilmember Carol Rios said she’s interested in a partnership with EDYSL but would need to see a feasibility report to know for sure that EDYSL has the funds for this plan and won’t follow in the YMCA’s footsteps.
While members of the council hesitated to discuss a long-term deal with EDYSL, Councilmember Randy Pope believes a partnership with the organization would be a good short-term deal.
“I don’t think it really matters if you use the building for storage or for an office or for indoor training as long as you pay the lease and take care of our property, and at the end of the lease, you return it to us in a similar condition,” Pope said.
“I think that is all the city should be concerned about because we have no other competing uses. There are no other people in this room right now asking us to use this building and this property, and the city is paying the bill for it. I think you (EDYSL) have a viable proposal. I’d like to see it come to fruition as long as you can demonstrate that you’re able to pull it off.”
Montgomery also saw the partnership as a good short-term plan and suggested that the city and EDYSL might share the property in the future when funds become available to build a community center. Frazier and Anderson said they didn’t think the two centers could cohabitate at the Moura property, while Vice Mayor Kevin Romick, Pope and Rios were open to continuing discussions with EDYSL to see if an agreement could be reached.
The council voted 3-2 to continue working with EDYSL and asked the organization to return before the council at a later date once a feasibility report has been completed.